NICE, France – There has been another deadly knife attack in France, this time in Nice where at least three people have died.
The Thursday morning attack is being treated as a terror attack, with the mayor of the coastal city saying one of the victims was beheaded.
“He cried ‘Allah Akbar!’ over and over, even after he was injured,” said Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who told BFM television that two women and a man had died, two inside the Notre Dame Basilica and a third who tried to run to a nearby bar. “The meaning of his gesture left no doubt.”
The assailant was arrested after the stabbing and taken to a nearby hospital after being injured during his arrest, a police official said. He was believed to be acting alone, the official added. She was not authorized to be publicly named.
This incident was the third attack in two months in France, which has grown increasingly tense during a furor over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Other confrontations and attacks were reported Thursday in the southern city of Avignon and in the Saudi city of Jeddah, but it was not immediately clear if they were linked to the attack in Nice.
The stabbing in Nice took place just less than a kilometre from where an attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd, killing dozens of people, in 2016.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the Nice killings, which marked the third attack since the September opening of the trial of 14 people linked to the January 2015 killings at Charlie Hebdo in Paris and at a kosher supermarket. The gunmen in the 2015 attacks claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida.
Thursday’s attacker was believed to be acting alone and police are not searching for other assailants, said two police officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named.
French media showed the Nice neighborhood locked down and surrounded by police and emergency vehicles. Sounds of explosions could be heard as sappers exploded suspicious objects.
— Ivan Blanco (@ivanblancovilar) October 29, 2020
The French Council of the Muslim Faith condemned the Nice attack and called on French Muslims to refrain from festivities this week marking the birth of Muhammed “as a sign of mourning and in solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.”
Islamic State extremists issued a video on Wednesday renewing calls for attacks against France.
The lower house of parliament suspended a debate on France’s new COVID-19 restrictions and held a moment of silence Thursday for the victims. The prime minister rushed from the hall to a crisis center overseeing the aftermath of the Nice attack. French President Emmanuel Macron was headed to Nice later in the day.
dear Minister @simoncoveney TD, dear @nealerichmond TD, thank you for your messages of condolences and support. Much appreciated. Horror again, in a place of worship, targetting elderly. We will stop this, without compromising with our democratic principles and values. #Nice https://t.co/CAUVlXYfl6
— Vincent Guérend (@vincentguerend) October 29, 2020
In the southern city of Avignon later in the morning, an armed man was shot to death by police after he refused to drop his weapon and a flash-ball shot failed to stop him, one police official said. Meanwhile, a Saudi state-run news agency reported that a man had stabbed a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, wounding the guard before he was arrested.
Less than two weeks ago, an assailant decapitated a French middle school teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for a class on free speech. Those caricatures were published by Charlie Hebdo and cited by the men who gunned down the newspaper’s editorial meeting in 2015.
In September, a man who had sought asylum in France attacked bystanders outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices with a butcher knife.